PROG: 32-33: EXCURSION
Script: Peter Harris
Art: Horacio Lalia (as panacomics)
Letters: Jack Potter (pg. 1-2) Peter Knight (pg 3-4)
Plot: Abner and Charlie enjoy the views as Pompeii is engulfed in lava, escaping the doomed citizen at the last-minute via a tractor beam that takes them back to the shuttle of ‘trans time’ a company the specialises in time-travel holidays. They then plump for watching a witch-trial in medieval England but, finding the proceedings a bit dull, decided to use the tractor beam to levitate above the crowd and ‘play the witch’.
Shock: As they taunt the Witch-finder General their beams fail and Charlie and Abner plummet to earth, to be seized and burnt at the stake. As they die their comms device from the holiday company apologies for the technical failure and promises it will be remedied in the hour.
Thoughts: The first example of a Future Shock failing in terms of its own internal logic – the holiday company offers time travel and then, when there is a technical error resulting in the death of their clients, it should be obvious the company can just go back to before the accident and avoid the problem. Time travel is, of course, prone to this sort of problem in narrative determinism and sometimes it has to be indulged but here, when there is little else to hang the story on and not enough room to say why the company can’t deal with the deaths this way, it becomes an over-bearing problem. The story is both more of a Terror Tale (Charlie and Abner’s fates are pretty grisly) and a Time Twister before these titles were used in 2000AD. As a Future Shock concept it’s simply not very good. Horacio Lalia produces one or two fine panels but much of the work lacks the quality he brought to A Promised Land! in the previous issue and the inking, along with the credit to ‘panacomics’ would suggest he wasn’t the sole artist working on the visuals. Peter Harris’ concept may not have been up to much but he nails the casual speech of the slobbish Abner and Charlie (‘not us sucker, we’re movin’ on’) and gives some fun names during the witch-trials (Seth Wormtree, Goody Twynham). There is a real efficiency in his writing to be commended; in 16 panels he goes from the destruction of Pompeii to a meeting with the Time Travel company to the confrontation of the witch-trials and its fiery outcome.
Shock’d? There is no real shock to speak of as the reader immediately thinks that time-travel would save our callous protagonists but as an early Terror Tale it makes good reading with three burnings at the stake and Pompeii destroyed in a short four pages. There is talk of a money-back guarantee littered throughout the script which is clearly meant to have more import than it actually does. Nobody is shocked if a consumer warranty isn’t up to much, are they?